Thomas Chappell and Kate Cheney Chappell

Honorary Degree Citation

Thomas Chappell
Kate Chappell

Thomas Chappell and Kate Cheney Chappell. Pioneering green entrepreneurs, inspiring philanthropists, uncompromising stewards of the Earth. You created the enormously successful company Tom’s of Maine based on your belief that a business can be good for the Earth, good for society, and good for employees and shareholders. Tom’s of Maine introduced environmentally friendly production in 1970, when few thought it necessary or profitable. Your all-natural toothpastes, soaps, and other products demonstrate that social and environmental ethics can be the paramount goal of a successful business. Recognizing that pollution threatened our waterways, you created the first laundry detergent made without phosphates, and you created the Rivers Awareness Partnership to support organizations and communities in their efforts to clean up our nation’s rivers. Devoted parents of five children, your innovative community partnership, Dental Health for All, fills a critical gap in children’s health care. Your philanthropic work and personal accomplishments have been influenced, Tom, by your training at Trinity College, Harvard Divinity School, and practice in theology; and Kate, by your training at Chatham College and the University of Southern Maine and your extensive accomplishments as an artist. Your achievements have been recognized with many prestigious awards and commendations, such as CNBC’s Entrepreneur of the Year award and a Corporate Conscience Award from the Council on Economic Priorities. Your vision and actions have helped to create a sea change in the business world by pioneering a management strategy that fuses successful corporate practices with environmental sustainability and community engagement. In this era of urgent environmental and social challenges, your deeply personal story of courage, innovation, and ethical living provide inspiration and models for individuals and companies around the world.

By the authority of the Board of Trustees of Colby College, I confer upon you, Thomas Chappell and Kate Cheney Chappell, the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa. The hoods with which you have been invested and these diplomas which I place in your hands are visible symbols of your membership in this society of scholars, to all the rights and privileges of which I declare you entitled.

Conferred May 24, 2009


Kate Cheney Chappell attended Chatham College in Pittsburgh and studied painting, drawing, etching, and literature in Paris as an undergraduate. She and her husband, Tom, moved to Maine in 1968 and cofounded Tom’s of Maine, which remains the leading maker of natural toothpaste and a pioneer in environmental, social, and fiscal responsibility. The Chapells raised five children in Kennebunk and helped start an alternative school where Ms. Chappell taught art and reading. In 1983 she completed her bachelor’s degree, summa cum laude, at the University of Southern Maine. She began showing watercolor landscapes in the Portland area and joined the artists’ community on Monhegan Island. She has continued her studies at the Charles River Studio Workshop, Maine College of Art, USM, and Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, embracing printmaking and mixed media. She shows her work throughout Maine and New England and is a member of Peregrine Press, a fine arts cooperative in Portland.

Thomas M. Chappell is an entrepreneur, environmentalist, philanthropist, author, and family man. Founder of Tom’s of Maine with his wife, Kate, Mr. Chappell is a pioneer in natural personal care products and in proving a business can be environmentally sensitive, socially responsible, and profitable. He is the author of two books on business ethics: The Soul of a Business (1993) and Managing Upside Down (1999). A graduate of Moses Brown School, Trinity College, and Harvard Divinity School, he continues to work at the boundary of business and ethics. He serves his Episcopal faith tradition at local, regional, and national levels, serves on various boards, and consults with small business owners and entrepreneurs. The Chapells, who remain concerned about and who continue to pursue environmental and community sustainability, now produce fine wool on their sheep farm and are launching the fine apparel brand Ramblers Way Farm this year.

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